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Saturday, May 29, 2010

Mr. Scott Goes to the State Department
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Broadcasting & Cable reports that Ben Scott is leaving the radical outfit, Free Press, for the (hopefully not so radical) U.S. State Department. There, he will advise the State Department on "innovation policy."


Of all the times I have read or heard him speak, the one moment that sticks out in my mind most was an odd exchange five years ago with Senator Byron Dorgan on S. 2686 (regarding this), the 109th Congress' attempt to impose stultifying Net Neutrality mandates on network providers. I say odd only in that, if you don't know how hearings work, questions are scripted. Senators pitch softball questions to favorable witnesses to back up the truths asserted by the inquisitor. For the Democrats on hand, Scott was the "home team" during a hearing run by Republicans (they still had the Congress and could control the hearing agenda).

In the following exchange before the Senate Commerce Committee on May 25, 2006, Senator Dorgan was questioning Scott on his organization and its nascent grassroots efforts to get Net Neutrality passed into law. The odd part is just how bold the "truth asserted" was. Namely, it was a naked warning of sorts - i.e., if Congress doesn't pass Net Neutrality mandates into law, brute majority force will be used to do so instead.

DORGAN: Mr. Scott, your organization has accumulated a pretty impressive group of interested parties and organizations. Tell me what your intention is with those groups.

SCOTT: Well, our intention is to keep them up to speed as to the decision-making process here in the Congress, keep them informed about what the issues mean to them as consumers and as small-business providers, and as organizations who have millions of members across the nation, how the future of the Internet will affect them.

DORGAN: And what are the consequences if the Congress says, "You know what? Let's do nothing and, whatever happens, happens out there"? What are the consequences for all those interests?

SCOTT: I think they'll be universally negative. And I think that the hundreds of thousands of people that are currently engaged will become tens of millions, and we'll suddenly see a revolt on the Internet the likes of which has never occurred before (emphasis added).

To the Free Press' credit, they have quite a network of "grassroots voices." No one's quite sure who really funds them or how they developed such numbers so quickly, but I digress. One thing that has become apparent over this span of time, however, is that they are a crude, blunt force to be reckoned with. Just go to Twitter and search hash tags #FCC, #broadband and #netneutrality to see some of their handiwork. It litters those commons.

Their efforts - aided by the Democratic party, special interest groups MoveOn.org and Public Knowledge (among a litany of others) and, oh yes, many in the press - has had an effect. The FCC's "Third Way" looks an awful lot like what Ben Scott has trafficked all these years. And, leading Democratic voices on this issue in the House and Senate appear ready to begin work, updating the Communications Act, ostensibly to help further these goals, too (though, this looks like an iffy prospect if a number of other Democratic House members have their way).

Said Scott at that May hearing four years ago - "It is impossible to ignore that the cozy duopoly of telecom and cable companies that control residential broadband markets will not use that power to discriminate against the content and applications providers."

Hooray! Protect the "little guy" on the Internet...er, with 75-year-old regulations...that resulted in the MFJ.


Thankfully for American consumers, S. 2686 didn't go anywhere. And there' s good reason for that. We have more innovation, more voices, more network and core innovation than ever before. Scott's pessimistic view of the marketplace - the impossibility of it all - well, it actually works to serve Americans. Without stifling regulations.

Go figure, Ben.

One hopes that as "innovation policy advisor," Scott leaves this baggage well behind. He is now an official representative of capitalist America.

That means the free marketplace, not central planning, is how America guides and benefits the world; there are no "positive externalities" for stealing copyrighted material; legitimately patented ideas deserve respect and unwavering protection; innovation, fostered through private property risk and expectations, is just as good (or better than) "free-culture" innovation; network innovation is as important (or more so) than edge innovation; and, perhaps most importantly, we are a nation of laws - not "consensus" created through brute force, bought majorities.

Good luck, Ben. You're going to need it.

posted by Mike Wendy @ 3:09 PM | Broadband , Capitalism , Capitol Hill , Copyright , IP , Innovation , Internet , Net Neutrality , Open Source , Regulation , The FCC

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